FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 2, 2021
CONTACT: Press Office
East Elmhurst, NY – Hazel Jennings, Chief of Department for the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) announced that she is retiring today after more than 30 years with the Department.
Chief Jennings began her career with DOC in 1989 as a Correction Officer at the Robert N. Davoren Center (RNDC) formally known as the Adolescent Reception Detention Center (ARDC) working with adolescents and young adults. She rose through the ranks from Officer to Captain, Assistant Deputy Warden, Deputy Warden, Warden, Assistant Chief of Security, Bureau Chief of Security, Bureau Chief of Facility Operations, and Bureau Chief of Criminal Justice before being promoted to Chief of Department in 2017.
She worked closely with former Warden, Patrick Walsh who was her supervisor and mentor. Walsh remembers Jennings as being one of his hardest workers, saying that he has so much respect for her because whatever he asked her to do, she got it done. Although he was her mentor and supervisor, Walsh says, “she taught me how to be great with people. She made me better that way. She was such an asset”.
Her dedication to the job and the population she served earned her a DOC Meritorious Duty award for her leadership when a three-alarm fire broke out on the roof of GMDC in 2011. As Assistant Deputy Warden, Jennings ensured that the 241 people in custody and every staff member in the building were safely and securely evacuated.
As Chief of Department. Jennings made reforming the culture in the jails one of her main priorities, and in 2020 Jennings was awarded the Frederick O’Reilly Hayes Prize for her leadership of the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hayes prize is awarded to City of New York employees who spearhead outstanding, high-impact projects. The Chief worked closely with Correctional Health Services (CHS) DOC’s healthcare partner to minimize the impact of the virus on the people in custody as well as staff. In addition to being awarded the prestigious Hayes Prize, Jennings hopes to also leave a legacy of commitment to the department. Under her leadership Training and Development was enhanced, and a greater focus was placed on culture change within the department.
"Unfortunately, I was only able to work with Chief Jennings for a month, but in that brief time she gave me a lot of reasons to wish I could work with her more. Because of her leadership, I've stepped into a department well-positioned to continue reforms and one that has fared far better than most others during the pandemic. I wish her the best and thank her for leaving us well-prepared," said Department of Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi.
“Chief Jennings has been an inspirational example of leadership for both women and men at the department. I have greatly relied on her experience and wisdom over the course of my tenure, and will miss her straightforward, honest, and often humorous approach to even the most difficult situations. We are a better department for having her, and I wish her the absolute best,” said Acting Chief of Staff Dana Wax.
Dr. Patsy Yang, Senior Vice President at NYC Health + Hospitals for Correctional Health Services, who worked closely with the Chief during the pandemic praised Jennings. “On behalf of all the health care staff, I send heartiest congratulations to Chief Hazel Jennings on her very well-earned retirement. Chief Jennings’ leadership over the years has proven invaluable in safeguarding the health and safety of our patients and our staff. We are so fortunate to have had Chief Jennings as our partner during some of the most extraordinary times in the City’s jails. We wish her all the best.”
Jennings says becoming a correction officer was her first job ever and she has no regrets. As she looks back on her career, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
As Jennings departs, Bureau Chief of Security Kenneth Stukes will serve as Acting Chief of Department.
“I’m both grateful for the opportunity to serve as Acting Chief of Department and sad to see Chief Jennings leave. She is both a mentor and friend to me, and her legacy of strong and compassionate leadership will be at the forefront of my mind as I follow in her footsteps,” said Acting Chief of Department Kenneth Stukes.
The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) is dedicated to creating a safe and supportive environment while providing individuals in our care with a path to successfully re-enter their communities. The Department provides for the care and custody of people ordered held by the courts and awaiting trial or who are convicted and sentenced to one year or less of jail time. DOC manages 8 facilities housing people in custody, 7 of which are located on Rikers Island. The Department also operates two hospital wards (Bellevue and Elmhurst hospitals) and court facilities in each borough. Our dedicated workforce of both uniformed and non-uniformed staff members represents the city’s BOLDEST.